Macpac Traverse 35
Get this workhorse for bushwhacks and gnarly weather: It's so tough you could kick it down the trail instead of carry it. "The super-padded shoulder straps and backpanel carry like a dream, and it sheds water like a greased otter," said our tester after sleet-pelted fall hikes. A beefy waterproof zipper opens wide for easy access to the main panel-loading compartment. Two overlapping front pockets have vertical zips with flaps that channel water away. Macpac's AzTec fabric, a polyester/cotton blend that's coated with waxes and resins for waterproofness, didn't leak a drop (despite the lack of seam-taping); it also shrugged off abuse from thorns and granite. Features are minimalist: just two stretchy wand/bottle pockets and a hydration port that easily accommodates big valves. $185; 2,135 cu. in.; 3 lbs.